Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rethinking Biblical Paradigms


Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken states its purpose on the front cover...Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. Indeed, the entire book is predicated upon the idea that singleness is not a gift and to teach that it is a gift is to teach something contrary to the Bible and indeed to go against God's will. Her argument goes like this...
  1. We were created to be married.
  2. The Bible treats Marriage as the norm for men and women.
  3. Therefore singleness is not the norm and not an equal status before God.
  4. Therefore singleness is not a gift.
  5. For if we were created to be married then singleness cannot be a gift.

The premise of the book is that singleness cannot be a gift. If this premise is shown to be false then the book falls apart. My hope is that the book will fall apart in the minds and hearts of singles and pastors and teachers everywhere. Why?

There are two points at which this book fails.

  1. First, she compares not having a spouse to not eating. I think this is a fair comparison. For she says, and I agree that we were created to eat just as well as we were created to be married. It isn't a perfect analogy but one that works. Her argument is that someone not being married is like someone being hungry. And to tell someone that singleness is a gift is tantamount to telling someone that hunger is a gift. This argument actually betrays some unbiblical paradigms in her thinking. She assumes that suffering is not a gift to rejoice over, whether it be suffering because you are single or suffering because you are hungry. Such a way of thinking ignores James 1 and Romans 5, not to mention the stories of Job, Joseph and Paul who said, "...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13). And what is so frustrating is that such discussions are treated with contempt throughout the book. This is not a pat answer. Paul is in prison and is in a position of suffering that makes not having a spouse seem a little small. He might die. I agree that we should be careful when we discuss this with someone who is single. I actually agree that it is biblical to encourage someone to seek a spouse. But like anything, it must be done with the understanding that if you do not get married in your youth or ever, that contentment should be the order of the day. Why not counsel them to seek a spouse but not at the expense of their contentment with where God has them now.
  2. Second, Mrs. Maken fails in her discussion on Providence. She is guided by experience over against the testimony of Scripture. She argues against those who would trust in God's Providence by using a personal anecdote of someone who is "lazy" about getting a wife. Well Hell's bells, I could use the argument of someone so desperate to live out the creational mandate to get a spouse that he beat a woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave to say that we ought not listen to her book! In other words she should have argued with scholarly defenders of a classical evangelical view of Providence and its day in and day out relevance to life. But she chose to argue with someone who does not have a biblically informed picture of Providence. If she had, she would have read (even if done so randomly) that a confidence in God's Providential Hand has nothing in common with laziness but much to do with the fact that whatever difficulty, suffering or trial or even hope realized and dream fulfilled is to be seen as done by God. It is simply foolish to presume that because God's revealed will calls for everyone besides a distinct few to have a spouse (a premise I reject) that all must reject the call to contentment because they have no spouse. Let's talk about Joseph, who should not have been in jail as women should not be single. He did not choose jail and some single women do not choose singleness. He suffered because of the sins of sinful men. Some single women suffer because of the sins of single men who would rather play video games and drive sports cars than grow up and get married. Joseph wanted out of jail as some single women want out of singleness. God provided a way for him to get out of jail and God provides a spouse so that some single people escape (some sooner and some later, for Joseph it was later) the suffering they were enduring. Joseph attributes the sins of other men (brothers) as God doing something through their sins...we have no record of complaint. Though the author of Getting Serious is now married we have the very opposite in printed form, for in her way of thinking he might be sovereign over singleness but it is not really relevant to the quest of a spouse. She simply assumes that if we cite God's Sovereignty over the sinful actions of others we have excused the sin. This is to fight a strawman. Those of us who would disagree with her simply want to assert that every suffering (even loneliness) and every dream that is realized (marriage) are circumstances in which we should rejoice (I did not say act like all is easy and rosy). Listen to James, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." To rejoice in suffering (Romans 5) and count it all joy when you face various trials (James 1) is to assume the suffering is for a good reason and therefore a gift. This of course does not excuse sin that might cause these trials, it simply explains that there is a purpose in trials, even in Singleness.

I can appreciate her frustrations to some degree. But her bitterness never rises to the level of righteous indignation. Sneers seem to leap from the page and anger is the rule and not the exception. Those she disagrees with she either writes off or rolls her eyes at. Let me say in closing I sympathize a lot with some of her cultural diagnoses. She sees many of the problems that are really there. But borrowed cultural analyses even if good, is no cover for ignoring Biblical paradigms. Her view of suffering is at odds with the Biblical paradigm. God is obviously sovereign over sin and the results of sin(Romans 11) and yet is angry at it. This differs from Mrs. Maken as she is not in control and seems to be angry about that.

32 comments:

Elizabeth said...

While I agree with you that Maken seems to have overlooked or tossed out God's part in our quest for a spouse (perhaps because of her eager desire for change in the Christian dating world), I think you overlooked something very important in your post.

She states that the main cause of the current "crisis" is the lack of male leadership. She is absolutely right. As a Christian single myself, I've personally witnessed countless times men living their second adolescence. I recently broke off a relationship after a few months with a guy who seems destined for lifelong bachelorhood. (He is 36 (12 yrs my senior), never been married, living off of a trust fund, and still in school getting a PhD). Like any new experience in life, marriage can seem scary at first. But men need to be spiritual leaders...and it is hard when the church embraces a secular culture that prizes eternal youth. I believe she was right on point with that idea. It is time for Christian men to step up to the plate.

krystal kay Lyon said...

Matt,
while I have never read this book, nor will I ever read this book, if what you write is true then this is very offensive to me. Is she saying that we are in control and not God. I have no control over whether I will get married or not, God is in total control of that! And He blesses us in our singleness. Praise God that I am single and can have the ministry that I have, Praise Him that I can have a place for Megahn Lloyd or Anita Rigdon to live! Praise God that I had a room in my house for a friend last year that went through a divorce, and a room for a girl that had a baby. Praise God that I can go on the mission field for a month, maybe longer. If God was not in control of me and the fact that I am single, then none of those things would be possible.
The way it sounds, she seems to know the mind of God, and that is a very rare gift.

m b redmond said...

elizabeth said, "I think you overlooked something very important in your post. She states that the main cause of the current "crisis" is the lack of male leadership. She is absolutely right."

I actually agree with Debbie on this point. That there are young men (and I use the term loosely) who humanly speaking are to "blame". My beef with this book is it assumes that b/c marriage might be the norm in the Scriptures, it follows that singleness cannot be a gift. This stands in direct contradictipon to the Scripture's teaching on Suffering. The Bible is clear that suffering is not something we get to escape, It is part of the Christian experience. Being single is for some a form of suffering therefore to not rejoice in it is to pick and choose what we want from the Sovereign God of the Universe.

Now, I do not think that seeing a present time of singleness as a gift precludes us from wanting or praying for marriage or actively seeking it. The concept of contentment in the Scriptures is one in which we are to be content with Christ if we cannot have the comforts of this this present world. It does not preclude us from wanting some comfort, it keeps from idolizing it, ie. wanting it more than Jesus.

The fact is that this book is wide of the mark in being biblically sound. It is profoundly bitter and cynical and will do nothing but encourage bitterness and frustration when what can be offered is everlasting joy in the sufficient work of Christ. To say that Christ is not enough (which she does) is leaning with a heretical wind. The God of the Universe needs nothing because he is satisifed in the triune God-head. If the God-head needs no other fellowship outside himself, who the heck are we to think we need God and....

dabears27 said...

uhmmm..you say this book "leaning with a heretical wind."

Yet Albert Mohler says this
"One of the most urgent questions facing today's generation of young Christians is this--does God really intend for us to make marriage a priority? Confusion reigns in this area of the Christian life. Far too many young Christians sideline marriage, delay marriage, and avoid marriage in an extension of adolescence that is truly unique in human history. Now comes Debbie Maken with sound advice, serious thinking, and an honest approach to this question that will help all Christians think about our responsibility to get serious about getting married. This book should be a must-read for all Christian young adults—and for all who love them."
—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

AND you equate singleness with suffering but yet you don't want people to seek a way out of their suffering (obviously prayerfully and while leaning on God)

If you are such a fan of suffering, why are you married?

Suffering is meant to teach and prune and to make a person grow.

Your view on suffering is that of a Buddhist. Be careful with that. Suffering is no gurantee of holiness or wisodom. Fools suffer their whole lives.

m b redmond said...

dabears27 said "AND you equate singleness with suffering but yet you don't want people to seek a way out of their suffering (obviously prayerfully and while leaning on God)"

Actually I am all for helping alleviate suffering thus My support of Robyn Joy in the Philipines through Compassion International. What I do not condone is the Modern American Assumption that if we suffer we do nothing but whine and complain. Sometimes we do not escape suffering. When we cannot or do not get out of suffering we should be able to say with the Psalmist, "the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life." If it is better than life then perhaps all the parts of life pale in comparison also, including marriage. The point is not whether we should alleviate suffering, we should of course. The problem with Americans as a whole is we are unwilling to see that Jesus is more than enough for the one who suffers.

"If you are such a fan of suffering, why are you married?"

I understand why you ask this question but let me answer a couple of different ways.

1. I never said I was a "fan" of suffering. I only want to be able to rejoice in suffering as Paul calls us to in Romans 5 and Philippians 4:1 and to consider it pure joy as James calls us to. However, I will not give up my job ceacuse of the difficulties and sufferings that arise from it. And I will still consider Children a gift from the Lord though our 2 yr old was in the hospital in December and my new born was (he was not breathing correctly) in February of this year. Our theology of suffering helped us see the worth of Jesus as awaited the reults of many, many tests and nights sleeping on hospital couches an hour and a half from home. You see I am a fan of the gospel of grace, so suffering is not the end of joy for me.

2. Second, I wnated to get married and sought marriage. however, I am glad God did not let me allow the three ladies I dated previous to my wife. they did not want to marry someone who was going into ministry. My singleness till I was 27 was a gift I am still thankful for. I tell young people to pursue marriage all the time, but I also tell them to satisfied with Jesus before and after Marriage.

"Your view on suffering is that of a Buddhist. Be careful with that."

First, let me say that before you level such a charge you ought to prove it. Apart from proving it, it come a cross as mean-spirited. I do not know how old you are that it is patently immature to level such a charge or make suchan observation and not give at least one example of why my view of suffering is one of a Buddhist.

Second, you are wrong. My view of suffering is Paul's. We should rejoice when we suffer (Romans 5). We should consider it pure joy when we face various trials (james 1). We should not run from scenarios where we might suffer (the entire book of acts and Pauline Epistles). Paul wanted to share in Christ's sufferings. he was not trying buy God's favor. It was simply a response to his free grace. For Paul to live is Christ and to dies is gain b/c it gave him Christ. Suffering and not-suffering gave him more of Christ. So when I call young people to embrace suffering, i tell them to an embrace a faith that lloks more like the faith of a beleiver in Pakistan or China. I wnat them to love Jesus and believe he is enough in singleness and in death.

Either you have misunderstood Buddhism or you have misunderstood me. The Buddha said, "The essence of life is suffering." I believe the essence of life is Christ who suffered under the wrath of God so that all my sufferings on earth wil be seen as small in comparison.


Suffering is no gurantee of holiness or wisodom. Fools suffer their whole lives."

I toptally agree with you here. the issue is not suffering per se. The issue is, "Are you content in suffering?" Are you content in suffering b/c of singleness, hunger, nakedness, and death? That is the issue.

And as far as Al Mohler is concerned...I love him dearly. But I do not have to agree with him on everything. We disagree, it is not the first time and not the last time. I am more concerned about Paul

Again, she actually says that Jesus is not enough. Read the book and perhaps you might see that she is the one that needs to be careful.

Thanks for your comments, you have encouraged and emboldened me.

Gordon Hackman said...

I am a single Christian guy who is 34. Aside from my job, I am very involved in a church and spend a lot of time reading books on Christianity and culture which is the area I primarily feel called to minister in. The notion that I am somehow failing morally if I am not continually on the prowl for a wife is one that I find extremely presumtuous and offensive.I have been in a couple of reasonably serious relationships and have attempted to pursue numerous others which have pretty much never gotten off the ground. Pursuing these relationships was, in most instances, emotionally and psychologically draining, as well as time and energy consuming.

While I do hope to get married someday, at this time in life I do not find myself highly motivated to pursue a dating relationship with someone. Nor do I feel that I am or should be under any obligation to. In fact, I think that making this into a moral obligation is a recipe for disaster and heartache in our churches.

While it is certainly true that many singles need to grow up and stop living like perpetual adolescents, I fail to see how this automatically leads to the conclusion that they musy therefore pursue marriage. In fact, I would argue that one of the reasons for the epidemic of imaturity among singles in our churches is precisely the fact that so many churches implicitly, if not explicitly, send out the message that you can't really be an adult until you get married. This encourages singles to think of themselves as something less than adults an thus to live accordingly. If, on the other hand, singleness was given an honored place in our churches and singles were recognized as full human beings and gifted members of the body of Christ, then maybe we could see them ministering and using their spiritual gifts and growing in maturity. This would undoubtedly lead to marriage for some, but if it didn't, that would be okay too, as they would still be functioning, ministering members of the body of Christ. The attitude of this book sounds to me like part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

I really wonder how people can say that pursuing marriage is some kind of moral obligation when both Jesus and Paul make it quite clear that those who can remain single should do so. There is certainly no indication in their teaching that seeking marriage is a moral obligation. In fact, Paul's teachings lean so much in favor of singleness that he has to qualify them to be sure his readers understand that he is not against marriage (see 1 Cor 7).

This book sounds to me like more of the typical nonsense that continually fills the shelves of Christian bookstores. For a much healthier view of Christian singleness see Rodney Clapp's book Families at the Crossroads and the chapter "The Superiority of Singleness." Also Lauren Winner's "Real Sex" has a good chapter on singleness.

Peace,
Gordon

m b redmond said...

Gordon said, " In fact, I would argue that one of the reasons for the epidemic of imaturity among singles in our churches is precisely the fact that so many churches implicitly, if not explicitly, send out the message that you can't really be an adult until you get married. This encourages singles to think of themselves as something less than adults an thus to live accordingly."

Man, that really may be something to think about...you really may be onto something with that line of thinking. Regardless, thanks for the thought-provoking post.

dabears27 said...

When Gordon impacts the world the way Paul and Jesus did, I will be more than happy to consider his singleness valid.

m b redmond said...

dabears27 said, "When Gordon impacts the world the way Paul and Jesus did, I will be more than happy to consider his singleness valid."

Normally I would delete such a post but since it goes further than anything I could have ever done to convince others of the inherent errors in Maken's Worldview, I will leave it up.

Gordon Hackman said...

One blogging youth pastor,

Thanks for the affirmative response and for backing me up.

To dabears27,

I can only say that I feel truly sad that you think such a petulant and silly comment constitutes anything resembling a valid response to what I wrote.

My point was that myself and other adult singles like me can be fully active in serving the Lord without (ever)being married. I attend a relatively small church that has a large percentage of adult singles (both men and women) all of whom serve the Lord in various ways both inside and outside the church. One of the reasons that they are able to do this is precisely because they are single and are not wasting loads of time looking for a spouse. This is precisely the reason that both Jesus and Paul (especially Paul) teach that those who can remain single should do so. There is no indication in the teachings of either that such a choice to remain single must be justified at all, much less that one must "impact the world as they did" in order to validate their singleness. Can any of us anywhere claim to have impacted the world like Jesus or Paul? People with atttudes like yours are what makes the church a hurtful place for many singles.

I predict that Maken's book will get some press and stir up some hoopla for a while, and then will blow over like every other silly Christian fad. My guess is that if any serious Bible scholars get ahold of her book they will largely dismantle her interpretations of the text. Meanwhile, those of us who choose to serve the Lord while remaining single will continue on serving the Lord. I just hope that not too many people are damaged before it all blows over.

dabears27 said...

This is what the author of the blog wrote

"Second, I wnated to get married and sought marriage"

From what I understand of Maken's book (having read the articles and not the book) this is what she is encourages and considers it to be a biblical view of marriage. If you as a pastor wanted to get married and sought marriage, why not encourage it for other people.

m b redmond said...

Dabears27 asked, "If you as a pastor wanted to get married and sought marriage, why not encourage it for other people?"

I also said this under point 1, "I actually agree that it is biblical to encourage someone to seek a spouse. But like anything, it must be done with the understanding that if you do not get married in your youth or ever, that contentment should be the order of the day. Why not counsel them to seek a spouse but not at the expense of their contentment with where God has them now."

I also said to elizabeth, "Now, I do not think that seeing a present time of singleness as a gift precludes us from wanting or praying for marriage or actively seeking it. The concept of contentment in the Scriptures is one in which we are to be content with Christ if we cannot have the comforts of this this present world. It does not preclude us from wanting some comfort, it keeps from idolizing it, ie. wanting it more than Jesus."

Feel free to try again

Christian Camille said...

"My beef with this book is it assumes that b/c marriage might be the norm in the Scriptures, it follows that singleness cannot be a gift...I do not think that seeing a present time of singleness as a gift precludes us from wanting or praying for marriage or actively seeking it."

Sorry Pastor, but if you're taking a default argument here that just doesn't wash. Debbie Maken's approach is actually much more biblical than yours because she astutely points out that nowhere in scripture is singleness considered "a gift". As such, your "well, suffering is a gift" angle is really a moot point.

"The gift of singleness" is a modern, man-made rogue doctrine that has created much pain and confusion about God's will about singleness and marriage among Christian singles of the past few decade. This term evolved out of the modern mistranslation of 1Cor7:7 that actually reads something like: "I would like all men to be as I am. But each has their own particular gift of God, some in this manner and some in that manner". Some late 20th century translators (Living Bible, The Message), have incorrectly assumed that "this manner and that" meant singleness and marriage, but this was NOT what Paul said or meant.

Because of this, marriage has been stripped of its ordinariness and universality, and thus exalted to the level of some kind of divine calling by many well-intentioned but woefully misguided Christian teachers. For example, Don Raunikar in "Choosing God's Best" says "Before you can determine whom to marry, you must first answer an preliminary question: Does God want you to marry anyone, ever? Or is His plan for you to remain single? Scripture teaches that marriage, like salvation, is an unmerited gift from God".

It's ridiculous! No one in the bible EVER had to pray to find out if they had the gift of singleness or not! Christians of the past never bothered with such nonsense! You'd go out and "find" a wife (Proverbs 18:22) or "take" a wife (1Cor9:5). None of the sturm und drang you see among Christian singles today, who have been burdened with the hyperspiritual teachings that have flowed from this appalling, heretical mistranslation. If you're not convinced, just peruse some of the singles discussion boards and see the anxiety: "is it a sin to date?", "should I look or 'let God write my love story'?", "what if God doesn't want me to get married?", etc., etc. ad nauseam...and it's been going on for years.

It's one thing to advise people to make the best of their situations, but it's quite another to use this cheesy, modern, western cliche that has done nothing but sow seeds of doubt in the hearts of earnest young believers. When the church allows this to happen, it sabotages its own future. It's time. "The Gift of Singleness" has got to go.

m b redmond said...

Camille, I have a few rejoinders in response to your post.

1. I will never be swayed and neither will many others if you do not keep such anger in check. Passion is fine but this anger reeks of Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins.

2. Granted, I only have a Masters of Divinity which includes a year of Greek Grammar and a year of Greek exegesis but I disagree with her exegetical conclusions on 1 Cor. 7:7. Maken never dialogues with the tons of exegetes and commentators who disagree with her and leans heavily on Kistemaker for a modern day scholar and Calvin and I believe Luther (I leant my copy to someone else for them to read). Kistemaker is good but there are far too many who disagree him on this to assume that his work here is a far gone conclusion. And as much as I love Calvin and Luther, their particular milieu called for a reduction in the importance of marriage, they were literally fighting the Roman Whore.

3. Regardless, it does not matter that the Bible never calls singleness a gift. Are you prepared to stake your belief in the Trinity on the use of the term in the Scriptures? It is not there. Are your prepared to base Jesus, being God incarnate on Jesus saying, "I am God"? He does not. The reason I call singleness a gift is the same reason I call anthing a gift. As a believer, I assume b/c of Romans 8:28 that all things work for our good, now call me crazy for thinking that all things are gift but if it for my good, I feel pretty comfortable calling it a gift. That includes my father's cancer, my infant son's apnea, my wife's heart issues and the rotting wood outside our front door. Whether the Bible explicitly calls it "a gift or" not is a terrible argument because it is irrelevant.

3. I have never read Rauniker and have actually never heard of him. And I certainly do not agree with him. The idea that someone has to figure out if they are supposed to be single is preposterous. How would you go about that? Anyway, I do not agree with him. And I would argue that such encouragement/discouragement is unconsciousable.

4. I cannot possibly understand why you call my position a default position. I am all for marriage and I am all for singles persuing marriage and wanting marriage. Why is mine the default position? Again, I was painfully single for years. I had girls break up with me and tell me that they would date me no longer simply because I wanted to be a pastor. I know it is harder for women than men but I know the pain of wanting a spouse and not having one. However, to call my position the default position reeks of lazy argumnetation and foolish assumptions. Believe me, I expeceted to like this book when I was recommended it. And I do consider my singleness a gift.

5. You said, "It's one thing to advise people to make the best of their situations..."

You give me too much credit. I would and have never said such a thing. I do not merely believe singles should make lemonade out of lemons. I believe God orchestrates all forms of suffering for our good and his glory. He does not just allow it to happen he is LORD over it. If you are single for any reason at all, whether it is because of sinful men or not, the Biblical testimony is that he is doing something for your good and his glory. The argument will be that such a perspective is harsh and unkind. I disagree, most people see their lives with themselves at the center and God on the periphery. If God gives you singleness for a season or for life, worship him and say "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

6. I would also argue (and be in good company) that there are only two times in the Bible when people are commded to marry. The first is in the graden...God wants a population to spread his glory for there is only Adam and Eve. Second, after the flood, when there is only Noah and his family. After that...nothing. In the NT...nothing.

7. I agree with much of Maken's cultural analysis. And I might would agree that marriage is the norm. Howver, she really should have at least anticipated the suffering argument.

8. I know of no one who actually reads The Message or the Living Bible. I use the Nestle aland version of the Greek NT and the ESV.

My hope is that this book will end up on clearance tables along with cassettes of Out of the Grey. I would recommend Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ and Piper's Don't Waste Your Life.

All the best to you and if you are single I hope you find a godly man who will give you more of Christ. Thanks for the post.

dabears27 said...

Dude, I don't know how you do it, but I have NEVER seen anyone talk out of both sides of their mouth as well as you do.

I am amazed how you can call something heresy and yet point to things that you agree with IN THE SAME BOOK.

You love Mohler (who endorsed the book) yet call your difference of opinion with him minor (see heresy reference)

You seek out marriage and call singleness suffering and call your own singleness painful, yet you want other people to be content. I am assuming that your family memeber with cancer sought treatment and didn't just sit there and say, "well this is a gift from God, so I will be content and do nothing" I am assuming the same is true of your wife's heart problems. When people are suffering (including Christians) they obviously learn from it but they also seek to end it ASAP.

Christian Camille said...

Funny you should call me angry and compare me to Dowd and Invins (did I make a single anti-male statement anywhere?). In that case I should feel free to say that I found your posts in general to be angry in a different way, in a Bill O'Reilly sort of way. Not very fitting for a youth pastor, I might add.

First of all, it looks like we've established that Maken is right on one thing: that the bible does not call singleness a gift. Grand gestures that the word trinity doesn't appear in the bible won’t help you much, since the comparison between it (which has had centuries more consensus) and “the gift of singleness” (a 80’s catch phrase) is laughable.

Your admonishment to "rejoice in suffering" would have more credibility coming from you if it wasn't so overstated and so self-serving in the way that you hold yourself up as a shining example at every opportunity, such as "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound" Puh-LEEZE!

Maken never opposed the message to rejoice in suffering, she merely suggested that we not thump people over the head with it, as you've done here. She is essentially telling singles to acknowledge their suffering (ie. loneliness, sexual frustration) and use it as a motivational force towards Godly action taking, instead of docilely pretending you're more content with your singleness than you really are. It's about being real, like David in the Psalms. You can't rejoice in your suffering if you can't admit (ie. confess) that you are suffering. And if you can't do that, then you won't have much compassion to pass on to others. Curiously, fans of Piper often seem to emulate his hard edged style...Hlanta tries to pull off the same stance on his blog.

Sorry Pastor, but I think you could use a little more humility and sensitivity (and a lot less black and white), when dealing with issues like God's sovereignty and suffering. Somehow, I suspect that you don't know as much about how He operates as you think you do.

Gordon Hackman said...

One blogging youth pastor,

Just thought I'd drop another comment and say that I've appreciated your responses to people here and have found them helpful. Nor have I found them to be harsh or lacking in humility.

I'm absolutely stunned by the mean-spiritedness, self-righteousness, and pedantry of some people making comments here. This is a good indicator to me of the fruit of Maken's book.

I went to a local Borders over the weekend and looked at the book, I read the intro, the first chapter, and the chapter in which she deals with the scriptures on singleness and marriage. I tried to keep an open mind and see if there was anything I needed to hear from the book. Her treatment of the scriptures struck me as fairly shabby; shallow and tendentious at best, and simply self-serving at worst.

I also looked in some different commentaries, including the study notes for the Geneva Study Bible and found that few, if any of them supported a position that goes as far as Maken's. In fact, most of them suggested that in 1 Cor 7 Paul is validating the choice to either marriage or singleness (and not just the heroic sort of singleness Maken tries to argue for in her book). I agree that she simply doesn't deal with the large number of Bible scholars and other Christian thinkers who don't share her view on this.

The Renovare' Spiritual Formation Bible says this in it's notes on 1 Cor 7:28, "Paul has a very high view of marriage and worries that those who are married when Christ returns may experience distress, perhaps as a result of conflicting devotion. Even so, he does not command one response with regard to marriage. Instead, he encourages people to make up their own minds. Having the flexibility to allow others to make choices different from our own is an important aspect of spiritual life."

I also discussed the book with some of my single women friends from the church. They all thought the premise of the book was ridiculous and offensive. One of them, who read the intro and the first chapter was appalled and said that she couldn't believe any reputable Christian press would publish such crap. She said that she wondered when it has become all about us.

Anyway, just wanted drop you an encouraging note and let you know that there are places out there where this book will not have much impact.

Peace,
Gordon

Christian Camille said...

"I'm absolutely stunned by the mean-spiritedness, self-righteousness, and pedantry of some people making comments here. This is a good indicator to me of the fruit of Maken's book."

Sorry Gordon, but you have it backasswards. Maken's book is a reaction to the mean-spiritedness, self-righteousness and pendantry of those who can't get their noses out of their bibles long enough to look at the consequences of how scriptures been misinterpreted and misused to shut down any detailed discussion as to why there are so many unmarried Christian women today. Believe me, it doesn't take much to get branded as a discontent feminist in Christian circles, and there the dialogue ends...and this has been going on for years. So at this point, Maken has nothing to lose with her polemic approach and everything to gain as far as finally drawing attention to the issues contained in her book.

It's just too easy to simply zero in on the flaws of Maken's book and refuse to see anything worthwhile that she has to say. But go ahead anyhow, and keep boasting about yourselves as models of contentedness. In a few years, you will all be embarrassed when reminded that you ever defended the catch phrase "the gift of singleness".

m b redmond said...

Ok, where to start? I will start with Christian Camille beacuse her arguments kinda make sense...kinda.

1. You lose all credibility in decrying meanspiritedness when you say someone has it "backasswords." Sorry for being pedantic, but I do not even know what such a bizarre word/phrase means.

2. Such language and anger only repels men.

3. What is wrong with pedantry?

4. I am not a model of contentedness. I only hope to be content with Christ in suffering and comfort, in sickness and health, in realized dreams and failings.

5. If I have any regrets in the future on this issue, it is all too irrelevant to whether someone should be content in suffering because of singleness.

6. To tell you the truth I am uninterested in defending the catchphrase "the gift of singleness." Let it burn in the fiery flames of hell for all I care. Let's just work with the idea that we should "rejoice in all things."

7. I do not assume you are a feminist. I only assume you are female and mad. Ivins and Dowd are female and mad. I could have compared you to Cornel West if that makes you feel better. I do not think Debbie Maken is a feminist. I do not know her, though I know a good friend of hers. She just seems mad which just made the book seem worse that it might have been otherwise.

8. I am quite willing to discuss the "misinterpretation of Scriptures" with you."

9. I hope all of us will keep our noses in the Bible.

m b redmond said...

now for dabears27...

1. It is not talking out of both sides of my mouth if I agree with some things Maken says and disagree with others. I would be doing that if, and only if I said singleness is not a gift and then said it was. I did no such thing.

2. I think I said that she "leaned toward heresy" in a particular remark. That is pretty serious but not the same thing.

3. I do love Mohler but I, unlike him would not suggest this book to a single person. We disagree on Baptism also...which is a bigger deal to be honest.

4. You said, "You seek out marriage and call singleness suffering and call your own singleness painful, yet you want other people to be content. "

Yes, I sought marriage and I want to be content with Christ as a married man. Yes, being single was painful at times but I realized that if I did not get married Christ was more than enough for me to have sufficient Joy. Seeing Jesus as sufficient does not preclude us from loving his good gifts, namely marriage. The rubber meets the road at the point where we love the Giver of good gifts even when we he takes them away or never gives them. Job said, "the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." And he also said to his wife who was a pain in the butt through all of this, "Shall we receive good from God and not receive evil?" The writer of Job says that after saying both of these things, "Job did not sin with his lips." My question for you is, "was Job speaking out of both sides of his mouth"?

5. I will not speak for my Father, who suffers from multiple strokes as well. But how I or anyone acts in a given situation proves absolutley nothing. My hope is that my Father, myself, my family as a whole and the many people in my church who hear me teach and preach on these things will utter Job's words of worship.

6. You said, "When people are suffering (including Christians) they obviously learn from it but they also seek to end it ASAP."

I agree to some extent, but some move toward more suffering. Some buy smaller homes in less than desirable neighborhoods. Some go to Muslim countries and fear for the lives of themselves and their children. Some, those in China could leave or renounce the faith but they stay and cherish the suffering. Paul wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ according to his letter to the believers in Philippi. He thought suffering was something to rejoice over in Romans 5. And he had also learned to be content. The differnce between myself and you and the rest of this world and the Apostle Paul is he really believed that "to live is Christ and to die is gain." I want to believe that...I want to want Christ that way.

7. Lastly, I also want married people to be content with Christ. Because some married folks will one day be w/o a spouse either because of death or divorce. I want them to be content with Christ even when the sex is good and life at home is easy so that when tragedy comes they can say with Job, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

dabears27 said...

"But how I or anyone acts in a given situation proves absolutley nothing."

UH????

I am confused..I thought that that was the point of this whole conversation?

On another point, men, especially Christian men, especially Christian single men really need to stop whining!

dabears27 said...
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Gordon Hackman said...

Camille,

First of all, let me say that I do not really care one way or another whether or not you are a feminist. I am actually sympathetic to at least some of feminism and I lean in the direction of egalitarianism when it comes to women in ministry. To be honest, Maken's view strikes me as the complete opposite of feminism, so my objections to anything you have said or the way you have said it, has nothing to do with feminism.

Second, I don't know what churches you or Maken have been a part of, but I can only say that my general experience of singleness in the church has not been the same as yours nor has it been that of my close women friends. We have actually found that the church has been a place where single people have not been respected or embraced, and where marriage as the norm has been assumed. Therefore, we simply can't relate to where Maken is coming from when she claims that the church has been promoting the idea that people should be content to remain single. We all feel that it has been the opposite.

Third, when it comes to the issue of the misinterpretation of scripture, I simply disagree with Maken's interpretations. I don't have a per se problem with her advancing a particular interpretation, as I don't feel that it is necessary for all of us to agree on the interpretation of every point of scripture. What I do have a problem with is her advancing a particular interpretation of scripture as if it were the only one, ignoring all of the other voices in the conversation, and giving off the impression that anyone who doesn't share her view is either sinful or acting in bad faith.

Fourth, as for the issue of why there are so many single Christian women, I don't have any problem with a detailed discussion of that either. I'm sure there are multiple reasons. But, once again, Maken's approach doesn't really strike me as a detailed discussion. It strikes me as a rather simplistic attempt to offer a one-size-fits-all solution, while suggesting that anyone who doesn't share in that view is completely wrong and even sinful.

Fifth, no where in my post did I boast about my contentment. Sometimes I am content with my situation, sometimes not. I did not plan on being 34 and single, but that is how it happened. None of the relationship attempts I have made have ever come to fruition. As one of my women friends observed, pursuing relationships of the dating/marriage sort (and I have never practiced casual dating)is usually highly draining, time consuming, awkward, and often painful. My decision to not pursue a relationship at this time has actually come from a combination of simply being tired of dealing with all the crap that comes with it and the feeling that it is an area of my life that I need to submit to the Lord and try to get some godly perspective on. Therefore, the counsel that Maken offers, that (almost) everyone should pursue marriage is totally the opposite of the direction that I feel God has been taking me lately.

Sixth, I don't necessarily feel that Maken has nothing worthwhile to say. I agree that too many people today are living in a perpetual adolescence. I actually thought this long before I ever heard of Maken's book. However, it is simply a non sequitur to suggest that therefore, the answer for everyone is marriage. I've no doubt that for many it is, but for many people the answer may well be learning how to live as responsible, productive single adults who serve the Lord. Once again, my problem with Maken is her attempt to deligitimize adult singleness while claiming that her solution is the answer for everybody. I fear that on balance, her book will do more harm than good and will wreak havoc in the live of many singles and church congregations.

I've been writing for an hour now and must stop.I'm sorry there has been so much heat between all of us in this discussion. As I was thinking about this at work today, I was thinking of how we are all members of the body of Christ but it's so easy to forget that or to want to forget it. If I've done that, I repent of it.

Gordon Hackman said...

Dabears27,

Actually, it was one of my women friends who called the book crap, not me. I probably wouldn't go that far and I admit that I should have left that out of my post. I'm sorry for any rudeness on my part in this debate, as I just said at the end of my response to Camille. I actually hate being at odds with people, especially other Christians. However, none of that changes the fact that I strongly disagree with the book overall, and think it will do more harm than good.

Peace,
Gordon

Christian Camille said...

1. You object to occasional vernacular? This is isn't pedantic of you, it's just prissy.

2. "Such language and anger only repels men". Not as much as prissiness repels women!

3, 8, & 9. Pedantry and the scriptures. What's wrong is the way you assume that it's right and necessary to quote (if you can call it that, what you're doing here barely even qualifies as prooftexting!) anything from the bible in any manner you please, however scantamonious, repetitious or devoid of context. Sorry, but the bible is holy, not magic. Even its words can come out sounding pretty hollow coming from the mouths of arrogance.

4. "I am not a model of contentedness". Then why do you keep bragging about your fortitude?

5. If you honestly want to help people (and I doubt that's your first priority...trying to win arguments obviously seems more important to you) "be content in suffering because of singleness", then you'd learn that you can't truly impact the minds and hearts of suffering people unless you sincerely communicate to them some understanding of their situation. "I've been there" is only lip service if you cut to the buck-up-and-rejoice-in-your-suffering message as you did in your first article and subsequent posts. Granted, no one should be expecting inner child therapy, but "rejoice in your suffering" is a lifelong process of spiritual growth, not a commandment as you've delivered it.

6. OK, so we agree to let "the gift of singleness" catchphrase "burn in the fiery flames of hell". As for "rejoice in all things", there was never any opposition to that principle in either my writings or Maken's. Only your big proclaimation of it, as if it we'd never would have crossed our minds.

7. "I do not assume you are a feminist." No one said you did! Does this always have to be about YOU? Uh...suppose so, since every other sentence you write has the word "I" in it.

Christian Camille said...

Gordon,

No worries, your points are well taken, and I certainly don't want to jump on the "mandatory marriage" bandwagon with Maken or anyone else. My concern is that even though she makes some long overdue points about unbiblical teachings to Christian singles that have been problematic for years, the whole "is singleness as sin?" issue seems to have eclipsed the better part of her book (which in my opinion is Part 2).

It's interesting that you and your single female friends have not had the kind of church experience where the desire for marriage is minimized. There is a book called "The Freedom To Marry" by Ellen Johnson Varughese that deals with exactly that. I have posted some excerpts of it this week on the ChristianityToday.com discussion boards (Singles-Dating forum).

Indeed there is a history of how singles have been ministered to over the past few decades. Too lengthy for me to be able to go into here. Perhaps Maken will not be the Moses that leads us out of Egypt, but there is definitely a need for a rethinking of many of these counterproductive "rogue theologies" that keep many marriage-minded Christians perennially single.

m b redmond said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gordon Hackman said...

Camille,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. I'll probably try to look at the book again, though I don't see myself changing my position on it that much, to be honest.

Thanks also for the book reference. I'll try to check it out. I definitely agree that Christians should have the freedom to marry as well as to stay single. I think that is the basic message of 1 Cor 7.

The book I have found most helpful lately in this regard is Laura A. Smit's "Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unequitted Love." Smit, a professor at Calvin Collge, speaks out of church situations like the ones I have come from in which marriage is promoted as the norm. She defends the notion that singleness should be the default setting for Christians (that is, no responsible adult Christian should have to justify their choice to remain single) with the freedom to pursue marriage.

I think I am done posting on this topic now. It simply is taking up too much of my time and my mind. I hope you and "one blogging youth pastor" can come to peace with each other. Even though we all have serious emotional investments in this topic, what we disagree on is nearly insignificant compared to what we agree on.

Peace to you,
Gordon

m b redmond said...

Gordon, I agree with you completely.

Darla Jean Philistine said...

Absence of male leadership? Whose fault is that? Punitive divorce laws and promiscuous feminist women?

Due to the complete emancipation of women, both economically and legally, men are no longer needed as leaders in families. Evangelicals divorce at much higher rates than secular folk.

Most Christian women fully expect to be in control of their families, to be the spiritual head. What are men supposed to do? Are they supposed to insist on a leadership role? In reality, most women are competing with men for leadership, for jobs, for every role men used to hold.

I completely understand why men won't marry. When women start acting like women again, maybe things will change.

Until that time, church singles events will be women-only. High priestesses of the "Gift of Singleness" cults will gain popularity and Christians will start leaving the Evangelical movement.

Men aren't the problem, but women will never admit they are wrong.

Tim's friend said...

dear "one blogging pastor" and "Gordon" - my mother and I have read all of this blog post and commentary tonight and were moved by your humility and respect for others in the body of Christ. What a testimony of Christ's love! Thank you - Shelah and Donna

wombatty said...

Amen Darla! Maken and her crowd desparately need to acknowledge this issues you point out. To hear Maken tell it, women have little, if any, responsibility for the current 'marriage deficit'. I don't deny that us men are part of the problem, but women have also contributed their fair share.

It's always easier to blame someone else for an entire problem - that way, you have no soul-searching/work to do yourself.